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DOE Answers Fuel Cell Questions

Leon Walker

hangoutThe US Department of Energy recently answered questions on fuel cells lifetimes, costs and storage technologies as part of an online question and answer session.

The first Energy 101 Hangout live discussion took place on the Department’s Google+ page using the Google Hangout video conferencing tool (pictured). Below are a selection of republished questions and the Department’s answers.

Can you discuss fuel cells for residential and commercial buildings and their cost?

Fuel cell costs for commercial buildings range from $3,500 per kW to $5,500 per kW, depending on the type of fuel cell and application. In addition to base load power and heat for buildings like hospitals, hotels and industrial plants, fuel cells are being used in telecom and data center applications for backup power – illustrating the dependability of fuel cells and willingness of businesses to rely on fuel cells for mission-critical power.”

What is the typical lifetime of a stationary fuel cell? Where are fuel cells manufactured?

“The current operation lifetime of a stationary fuel cell is 40,000-80,000 hours, depending on fuel cell technology. But factors such as application, temperature, contaminants and duty cycle can impact lifetime.

Fuel cells are developed and manufactured all over the world including the United States, Canada, Korea, Japan and the European Union. In 2012 alone, about 6,000 fuel cells were manufactured in the U.S. — double the number manufactured in 2011. For more on the state of the fuel cell market, check out the Department’s 2012 Market Report.”

I’d like an update on new fuel storage technologies for fuel cells. What progress has been made in the past years?

“The Department’s goal for onboard storage of hydrogen is a 300-mile driving range for fuel cell vehicles. In recent years, we have demonstrated numerous vehicles using high-pressure compressed hydrogen storage tanks with an average driving range of more than 250 miles and for a full size SUV, we have demonstrated a driving range of up to 430 miles on a single fill. However, cost is still a challenge and the driving range must be achievable across the full range of light-duty vehicle platforms without compromising space or performance. As a result, we are looking at new ways to increase the performance and reduce the cost of the carbon fiber composite tanks — a breakthrough that could lower hydrogen tank costs by 30-to-50 percent.

While the near-term hydrogen storage solution is high pressure compressed tanks, our long-term portfolio is focused on hydrogen storage materials that offer potential for increased capacities, lower pressure and higher system efficiencies. In recent years, more than 400 new hydrogen storage materials have been investigated and cataloged in the Hydrogen Storage Materials Database through our three Material Centers of Excellence.”

Click here for the full list of questions and answers.



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